I have to tell you, that I’ve never been a big history (books) fan, mostly because I find that history as a concept is just someone’s truth about events, that happened in the past. That, however does not mean it describes exactly what happened, does it?
On the other hand there is no other way of keeping the memory of the past alive, than just someone to sit down and write the things the way she/he saw them.
I can’t promise you that I would be as objective as the historians claim they are, but I would try to show you this Native American Festival trough my eyes.
It is one thing to cherish the traditions in your home country but it is another thing to know how to respect and learn from the traditions in the country which is your home now. I do not pretend to know American history as well as the natives, but I sure would like to learn more about it. That is why when we were looking for something interesting to do over the weekend, I was very pleased to see that one of the options was the Native American Festival.
I have to admit, that my knowledge of Native Americans was formed ( or stereotyped) mostly by the books of James Fenimor Cooper, Thomas Mayne Reid and Michael Blake.
Although these are very talented authors and their books are one of the best I’ve read, I cannot say I am proud of the way I’ve formed my knowledge. At least, these books and the fiction in them made me see the Native American culture as a symbol of wisdom and I have nothing more than great respect for their traditions. Even more, I always felt strangely attracted by the idea of knowing more about it, but I guess ( shame on me) I never found the time for it. So the Native American Festival was a great opportunity for me, to finally touch the real meaning of this culture, the way it was preserved by these amazing people, carrying their knowledge from generation to generation.
Unfortunately we could not go for the second day of the Festival, so I can only write about the first day, but I really hope you are going to feel the same way as we did- totally mesmerized by these people, that still managed to keep their predecessors’ alive in themselves!
When we arrived at this beautiful park, the first thing we saw were the vendors booths. Even when you are not familiar with the exact traditions (and functions) connected with the large variety of the hand made souvenirs and articles, you can surely enjoy the beauty of the product and the ingenuity of the hands that made it. Usually the souvenirs you can find in the stores or fairs sure look nice, but these were something else! Everything looked so perfect as it had never been touched by real human- the stone sculptures, the corn husk dolls, the leather pouches, the carved and feathered drums, the horn souvenirs, baskets in different sizes (some of them so small as if they had to be made with a needle), the pottery, the fur made blankets, hand made bows and arrows, spears and pikes, the leather masks, the paintings, even the food!
I can’t even remember all the things that I wanted too, but they sure were made with love and care and were a real sight to see!
One of the first attractions we went to see was the Sky Hunters- Birds of pray. My son was stunned by the sight of the gorgeous majestic birds, but so were we! Another thing that impressed me greatly (except the birds ) was that the man who was taking care of them ( I apologise I didn’t catch his name) spoke with such a great respect of the animals and of the fact that they belonged to the wild!
Usually when you have attractions including animals, they are made with the sole purpose to amuse people, no matter the animal’s dignity (one reason I am not a big fan of the circus), this however was not the case!
He explained that they are wild animals and not pets, and that people have to respect their wild nature, and that was the key in their use as a hunting birds in the past. Not punishment, not training, but great mutual respect from people to birds and vice versa.
I listened and I was so glad we went to see the birds ( I had doubts because of the reasons mentioned above) and my kids had the chance to listen to this man that just blew us away with the way he was talking about his feathered friends.
He actually let the birds fly over the people’s heads ( as we were later joking, what kind of an insurance this guy has to have to do that :-), and the eagle head owl was like an yard away from my camera, but unfortunately against the sun so I could not take a good picture.
I was a little sorry we couldn’t go and see the Variations of Dance Attire, but birds and that were at the same time, so we had to choose.
Anyway, when we moved in the crowd we still saw the dancers in their traditional outfits ( they are called “regalia”) so no loss there.
The regalia were so unique! Each dancer had special hand made one, sometimes the whole family helped in making it.
The kids were especially cute, with their feathered Kastoweh.
*The Kastoweh are a traditional formal head covering, worn by Haudenosaunee men( meaning People of the long house) and the arrangement and number of feathers on top of it it indicates the nation of the wearer- Tuscarora, Seneca, Cayuga, Onondaga, Oneida and Mohawk.
Another interesting thing was the “reading” of the wampum belts. The wampums are the beads ( purple or white) that are used to make embroidery or embellishments. When used on belts, they can ” record” and present a history event or else, but this can be “read” only by trained individuals.